Many times, a race that has known to be exciting would end up being more exciting than it was ever expected. Look at the spring race at Talladega, no one could have expected 88 lead changes or three green-white-checkered attempts.
But, other times, a race that is usually exciting can fall well short of expectations.
In the case of Richmond, it turned out to be a case of the second idea. Only three caution flags slowed the field, but there were intense battles every lap and every corner.
Our creatures knew that there were a few drivers to keep an eye on heading into the race. The entire Gibbs team was going to be tough, as they had won the previous three races at RIR. At the same time, teams like the No. 99 of Carl Edwards and the No. 14 of Tony Stewart were showing they would be hard to beat.
Edwards would be the pole-sitter for the Air Guard 400 on Saturday night, and through the first 100 laps he was the dominant car. But, as the night continued his car lost the handle and he would finish ninth.
For most of the night, the battle was between three cars. Joe Gibbs teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch swapped the lead late, but Clint Bowyer was making his charge at making the 2010 Chase for the Cup.
Bowyer would keep the good run going and finished sixth, easily locking himself into the Chase.
Out front, the teammates would put on an intense battle in the late stages, with neither wanting to yield to the other. But, Busch began complaining that he used up the tires, and that was the opening Hamlin needed to put distance on his fellow driver.
Hamlin took the checkered flag, giving Joe Gibbs Racing four consecutive wins at Richmond. More importantly it gave Hamlin a season-defining sixth win. That win gives Hamlin the Chase lead starting at New Hampshire, which could be critical early as this year's Chase field is wide open.
Some of our creatures knew exactly who would be tough this weekend. All but three picked either Hamlin or Busch to win, with three of them picking up a victory of their own.
Sadly, this would be the final race of the regular season. So, we now must crown a regular season champion.
Here is how the creature points ended following Saturday night's Air Guard 400:
Kara Martin (3,697) Denny Hamlin WON (3)
Christopher Leone (3,669) Kyle Busch finished second (4)
Billy Fellin (3,615) Kyle Busch finished second (3)
James Broomhead (3,580) Denny Hamlin WON (4)
Dustin Parks (3,578) Denny Hamlin WON (4)
Misan Akuya (3,408) Tony Stewart finished 16th (2)
Rob Tiongson (3,407) Jeff Gordon finished 12th (1)
Patti Rodisch (2,960) Kyle Busch finished second (0)
Alan Wade (1,892) Kyle Busch finished second (1)
Kyle Brandt (927) NO PICK SENT (2)
Many congratulations go out to columnist Kara Martin. She had many good picks earlier in the season and kept the momentum throughout the summer. She didn't have the most wins, but much like NASCAR, consistency proved huge.
The points themselves at the end of 26 races were extremely tight the last month. In fact, everyone in the top-five kept the points close the last month. At the end of Richmond, there was only a 119-point gap from first to fifth.
Everyone did an exceptional job these first 26 races. But now, the real race begins.
The next 10 races will determine the new champion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Just like the sport itself, the standings will be shuffled once again among our 10 writers. Wins have proved to be huge as the creatures have been correct in many races this season.
Now, wins could prove to be the difference maker in the title hunt. Our creatures have done well through the first 26 races. How will they fair now when the pressure is on?
Here is how our writers will stack up heading into the final 10 races:
1. James Broomhead, 5040 points
2. Christopher Leone, 5040 points
3. Dustin Parks, 5040 points
4. Kara Martin, 5030 points
5. Billy Fellin, 5030 points
6. Misan Ayuka, 5020 points
7. Kyle Brandt, 5020 points
8. Rob Tiongson, 5010 points
9. Alan Wade, 5010 points
10. Patti Rodisch, 5000 points
NEXT RACE: Is there any chance of someone finding some magic at the "Magic Mile"? That's what many teams are hoping for as the series heads north to New Hampshire.
This track proved to be a huge stepping stone for Mark Martin last year when the Chase began as he won this event. Could it be someone else that uses this opportunity to make their championship run this season?
We will have to wait and see.
Creatures, please have your picks for the Sylvania 300 emailed to me by Thursday, September 16, at 7 p.m. ET.
NOTE: I will email everyone about the Chase format Sunday night or Monday morning.
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